Seam Welding

Questions and Answers

Coated materials have an increased tendency to stick to and react with the surface of the seam welding wheel because the coatings melt at relatively low temperatures. Aluminized and galvanized coated steels are very common in industry and can lead to a buildup on the surface of the seam welding wheels. This buildup can raise the contact resistance between the wheel and the part surface. You cannot change the melting point of the coating so you must dress the wheel to keep it clean and at the desired weld face size. The most common method is to use a knurl drive system. The knurl wheel cleans and reshapes the weld wheel back to near original dimensions. It also drives the rotation of the weld wheel and part movement. The knurl wheel cuts a knurl type pattern on the wheel surface and shaves the sides to maintain the original width. The knurl on the wheel surface ensures good contact with the part and prevents the wheel from slipping on the part. Sometimes a water stream is directed at the knurl area to remove loose weld and knurl product.

There are two types of drives for seam weld wheels. One is driven by the central hub, direct drive. The other is driven by knurled wheels riding on the perimeter of the seam welding wheels, indirect drive. There are pros and cons for both systems.

KNURL DRIVE
The knurl drive, indirect drive system provides a constant linear wheel speed at all wheel diameters. This allows the use of two wheels of different size. Frequently it is advantageous to use a smaller seam welding wheel on one side. The knurl driven system accommodates this easily. The knurl is also used to continuously dress the wheels on every rotation so that fresh wheel material is always being used to make the weld. The knurl imprints a knurl pattern on the wheel which enables the wheel to grip the workpiece and move it without slipping. One negative is it may leave a knurl patter on the part face. Water is frequently sprayed on the knurl drive area to remove loose material and keep the heat down. A knurl driven machine may cost up to 20% more than a direct drive machine.

DIRECT DRIVE
The alternative is a central axis shaft driven machine (direct drive). Either one or both wheels may be driven. If both wheels are driven, they must be the same diameter in order to travel at the same lineal speed. If only one wheel is driven, the size can vary. As the wheels are dressed or wear the lineal speed will change and must be compensated for to maintain weld spacing. To dress the wheels they are frequently removed and dressed off line on a lathe. The option is to design an automated dresser. At the proper time the automated dressing tool would move into position and dress each or both wheels as desired. Every time you dress the wheels, their diameter is changing and therefor the rotational speed of direct driven wheels must be adjusted to maintain the desired lineal speed and weld spacing.

Seam welding can generate large amounts of heat. Especially when making a liquid tight continuous weld. This heat is very visible at the actual weld joint. Heat is also being created in the various conductors, transformer and the control. All of these components must be cooled. The control, transformer and conductors should all be cooled per the amount specified by the supplier of that equipment. The seam weld wheels are mounted on water cooled shafts which also are water cooled. All of these components will generally be cooled with 1-1.5 gallons of water per minute of flow per device. The flow to the various components should come from the water manifold separately to insure cool water for each component.

Seam welding just like spot welding depends upon the proper application of pressure current and time. Let’s assume that the current and time are controlled properly. If the weld force varies during the welding process to lower values, the process is not stable. As the force decreases the contact between the seam weld wheel and the workpiece is not as good as it was with full force. The contact resistance (Rc) between the weld wheel and the workpiece will increase. Rc will become very large and a lot of heat will be generated on the part surface against the seam weld wheel face. This is more heat than the process was designed for with the proper force. Therefore the wheel surface will be over heated and will wear at an increased rate. Mushrooming will increase and if the wheel is being dressed larger amounts of material will be removed. The wheel will be dressed away at a faster rate and need replacement.

The seam weld wheel will fail prematurely due to low or inconsistent force application.

Seam welds are merely a line of spot welds. If their individual welds are weak it is caused by the same factors that cause spot welds to be weak. Some factors could be:
The size of the weld nugget
Indentation which indicates the wheel forging action will influence strength
Presence of cracks or inclusions in the weld nugget
Penetration of the nugget into both materials being welded
Brittleness of the material being welded. Tempering may be needed
The material being welded. Aluminum tends to form voids that need to be forged closed.
Proper wheel dressing
Proper Cooling

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